News & Reviews

A Far Cry, With The Miró Quartet: Beethoven, Puts, Strauss

March 31 | Reviews

By Keith Powers

Some works they make their own. Others are made for them. Whatever the music’s origin, the Criers bring the same energy to it all.

A Far Cry continued its season of thoughtful programming and engaging concerts Friday evening in Jordan Hall, in a presentation that incorporated the Miró Quartet into the string orchestra. The music: arrangements of quartets by Beethoven (Op. 135) and Kevin Puts (“Credo”), and Richard Strauss’s virtuosic ensemble work, “Metamorphosen.”

The arrangements achieved varying degrees of success. For both quartets, Miró occupied the first chairs in the ensemble, with Criers filling in the ranks. Crier violinist Alex Fortes re-worked Beethoven’s late quartet, lightly. Predominantly, the strings filled in the original solo lines in unison. This led to a larger, orchestral sound for the work—and the writing can handle it. But it also watered down the impact of the voices.

This became all the more apparent in those brief sections where Miró explored lines alone—as in the opening of the slow movement, when first violinist Daniel Ching sketched out the aching cantabile line—or in the Grave section of the final movement, when the playing was confined to the four Mirós (violinist William Fedkenheuer, violist John Largess and cellist Joshua Gindele joining Ching), supplemented by some clever accompaniment by the Crier violists.

Kevin Puts “Credo” proved far more engaging. Originally written for Miró in 2007, memorializing (among other things) the shootings that year at Virginia Tech, the quartet was insightfully re-worked by another Crier violinist, Jae Cosmos Lee. It’s a deeply moving, introspective work with a solid sense of style and organization, and great emotional heft.

Five movements (no breaks, but easily discernible) have a central Intermezzo, ironically (it seems) subtitled “Learning to Dance.” Ironic, because it’s hardly dance-like: slow, with a soft dotted figure, a ruminative cello solo at its heart.

Around this central idea, a section entitled Infrastructure repeats (as the second and fourth movements). A racing figure, articulated by Ching (again the Mirós occupied the principal chairs in the ensemble), it jolted the mood to life—twice. Around these movements, introspection reigned. The opening showed off the sophisticated arrangement: there were still solo parts, but the accompaniment for the Criers was varied and profoundly interesting. The finale (called Credo) was a lament, passed through the soloists, coming back to Ching for a final restatement. A beautiful composition, beautifully realized.

There are Mozart orchestras. There are Pierrot groups. The Criers are a Metamorphosen ensemble. It’s not just that Strauss’s gut-wrenching piece for for 23 string soloists mirrors the Criers personnel; it’s that the challenges of the work—truly at the outer edge of what a conductor-less ensemble can pull off—run straight at the strengths of the group.

Lee had the concertmaster spot, but leadership came from many chairs, notably violist Sarah Darling. The work relies on communication—solos crop up everywhere, duets and trios as well across the stage—and the performance became a kind of dance, full of dramatic entrances and elegant accents. The tempo stays the same throughout—becoming both wearying and mesmerizing, in turns—but five strong themes develop and get interwoven. The cadence is breathtaking. As was the playing.

A Far Cry next performs on Thursday, April 5 in the Gardner Museum, a program that includes compositions by the Criers themselves. afarcry.org; 617 278-5156.

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